Empathy is a desirable skill to teach because it boosts physical and psychological well-being.
Several methods can be used to foster empathy in our children, coworkers and anyone else who we come across in our lives. Based on relevant psychological research ways in which we can foster empathy in ourselves and others are by putting on new glasses, turn on the receptors, learn from stories and films, broaden the range of our experiences, role-play, see similarities, and perform random acts of kindness.
Putting on new glasses refers to not making snap judgments and instead considering the factors of a situation that may have contributed to that person’s behavior, mood, difficulty in communication, seeming unfriendliness and other frustrations that would have previously led to snap judgments. Turning on the receptors is actively practicing compassion through active listening to those closest to us as well as to those who are distressed that we rarely talk with in our daily lives. Active listening leads to a better understanding of that person. Stories and films help to foster empathy by putting a human face on social problems and providing a helpful channel of communication between people regarding those problems. By transporting us into the experience of specific individuals, families, and groups of people, films help to foster empathy. Broadening the range of our experiences by volunteering and participating in social service programs, we are forced to confront the barriers we have built and as a result become more open to understanding the situations faced by others whom we might not have previously interacted with or known of. Assuming the role of people closest to us by walking in their shoes for a brief time helps to foster mutual understanding. Seeing similarities between each other as all being members of the human race with the shared vulnerability to suffering, weakness and death fosters compassion towards others through a sense of fellowship. Performing random acts of kindness leads to compassion due to our actions shaping our attitudes.
In addition, for children in particular, ways in which to foster empathy are to be a responsive, nurturing parent; build the child’s emotional vocabulary so they are better able to communicate and understand other people’s concerns and needs; let children know how you feel and your personal reactions to others; explain the reasons for rules and the impact that hurting and helping has on others; provide hands-on experiences; introduce cooperative learning; and encourage a compassionate self-image. Through these methods, empathy can be fostered in children.
Empathy is a desirable skill to teach because it boosts physical and psychological well-being. In addition, by shifting our attention to others, empathy and compassion keep us from becoming too preoccupied with the self and enables us to live life with greater purpose and freedom.